When I first started reporting the F1 business, one of the standing jokes of the day was how, one Sunday evening after a race, as the team personnel left the track, they were suddenly struck by a change in the landscape.
Smoldering remains of buildings and vegetation stripped bare, a nuclear war had occurred while the race was taking place. And, F1 being F1, nobody had noticed.
Last week an Icelandic volcano came nearly as close as that fictional nuclear holocaust to stopping F1 in its tracks. Very much a high octane variation on Kipling, “if you can keep your head when all around are losing theirs, chances are you haven’t heard the news".
Yet the effects of the volcano could still conceivably unsettle the F1 championship schedule which is due to continue with the Spanish GP at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya on 9 March. But with much of Europe’s airspace still clogged with volcanic ash, for the moment the team personnel and equipment are stranded in Shanghai.
"It will be a challenge, but we'll find a way [back], even if it is the trans-Siberian railway," McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said. "We are not so much worried about the people because we will find a way home but we have got to get the cars back.”
Yet Alan Woollard, the freight manager for Formula One Management who is responsible for getting 700 tons of cars and equipment around the world – packaged in six 747 freighters for events outside Europe – seemed remarkably sanguine about the challenge.
"If you had to pick a time for this to happen, it would be just before a three-week break,” he said on race morning in Shanghai.
"We'll get the stuff to the airport tonight and hopefully in a week the airways will be cleared and we can fly it out then. If it gets much past that we'll consider taking it straight to Barcelona for the next race. I don't know why everyone's getting so excited about it – there's nothing we can do."